I waited in line for discounted Broadway tickets in NYC and it was a complete ripoff

As an editorial intern living in Manhattan who likes to do and
things, budgeting hacks are essential.

Living on the cheap is like my second job. When I’m not writing, I’m figuring out how to continue living in this beautifully electric, yet grossly expensive, city.

I could tell you where to drink the cheapest beer (try Rudy’s Bar in Hells Kitchen), where to go for a reliable $US25 haircut (check out Hollywood Salon), and up until a few weeks ago, I would have told you where to get quality and affordable Broadway tickets: the TKTS Times Square booth, where you can supposedly get day-of Broadway tickets for 50% off.

Turns out, it’s a big tourist trap. I learned the hard way.

Here’s what happened:

My mum flew into the city for a long weekend, and an integral part of the aggressively scheduled itinerary I created was a Broadway show. We were both Broadway virgins, and what better mother-daughter activity?

Having read and heard so much about the infamous ticket booth in Times Square, I assured her we could have a first class Broadway experience for a reasonable price — as long as she didn’t mind waiting in line for a while.

We hopped in line around 5pm on a Friday to snag tickets for the musical “Kinky Boots.” The line moved shockingly quickly, and 20 minutes later, we had secured two $US75 tickets to the 8pm show. It felt expensive, but we reasoned that with a 50% discount, they were $US150 seats, so we were psyched.

Upon arriving to the theatre, the first usher directed us up the stairs. It seemed strange to be headed up, but I concluded that our seats must be in one of those fancy boxes off to the side of the stage.

My conclusion could not have been farther off.

Usher number two glanced at our “first class” tickets and said, “Three rows from the top. Enjoy your evening.”

We trudged up several steps, gradually getting farther from the stage, until we hit row “W” — the cheapest of the cheap seats.

Kinky bootsMichael Loccisano/GettyWe weren’t this close to the stage, but the performance was still incredible.

A little dismayed, we asked the two women behind us where they purchased their tickets, which only added salt to the wound: They had bought their seats about 15 minutes ago, at the theatre, for an undiscounted price of $US79.

I felt played; and I don’t like to be played, especially when it comes to money.

I decided to get to the bottom of this Kinky Boots conundrum and started investigating online. The TKTS website reads “same-day theatre tickets at up to 50% off” (key words being “up to”). I went on to read that they’re actually anywhere between 20% and 50% off, which still doesn’t explain our $US75 seats, but was revealing information.

Next, I returned to the TKTS booth, where there are several helpful guides standing around fielding questions. I questioned one of them about the $US4 difference in price between our “discounted” tickets and the full-price tickets of the ladies behind us, and he wasn’t quite sure what to tell me. “Maybe the two sitting behind you had coupons,” was all he could come up with. (They didn’t have coupons; we had made sure to ask that.)

A few days later, I approached a different person outside of the booth. I started by asking how the system works, and he mentioned that tickets will be a minimum of $US75. Aha! As soon as I started to recount my Kinky Boots situation, he started nodding his head and predicted its sad, third-to-last-row ending.

Times SquareGetty ImagesThe TKTS booth draws in the number of tourists walking around Times Square.

He admitted that the TKTS booth is definitely not the best place to buy tickets, and is really only there to draw in the tourists wandering around Times Square. It’s not worth waiting in line, he told me.

He did give me two budgeting hacks to add to my collection, though. Turns out, if you’re a student, you can get tickets for about $US38 at the theatres. I’m not a student, but I still have my student ID, and that’s enough, he assured me.

He also recommended BroadwayForBrokePeople.com, where you can skip the Times Square line and find the real steals.

A second trip to Broadway likely won’t fit into my budget anytime soon, even with the new hacks; but the next time my mum visits, we’ll definitely be foregoing the TKTS booth.

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